Tag Archives: oils

Varnish can make your paintings shine like a star

‘Self-Portrait, age 3’
10″ x 8″  Oil on masonite

before varnish

A friend of mine back in NJ recently purchased a landscape painting from my online gallery (whoopie!) and of course it was a thrill, knowing that my work can still touch people’s lives and that they want to own a piece is a great honor to me.

To put the story in context here, I knew him for years when I was living in Lambertville, NJ.  Gordon still is an artist and owns a highly respected gallery, but he was always an important mentor when I was trying to navigate the art world.  He’s given me so much advice that I didn’t learn from school, and some of it actually stuck to me.  Today was a day I put his advice to practice.  What did he say?  Use WN conserv-art glossy varnish after you complete a painting.

I’ve used varnish here and there, but the main reason I haven’t used it, was that I heard you have to wait a year or more to do a varnish.  By then, either I sold the painting or it was hiding somewhere in my home.  But this varnish that I used today was quite special.  First of all, varnish is used to protect a painting from the elements after it’s fully dried, has been used by masters and museum conservators for years.  What I liked about this varnish that my friend recommended me was that it brought out my painting’s colors from the dead.  When oil paintings dry, the colors tend to become a bit muted, and loose that “freshly painted look.”  I had no idea how dead some of my colors on the painting looked until I applied the varnish.  Wow, this varnish not only gave the colors new life, as if it was freshly painted, it gave it extra gloss.   And since it’s a retouch varnish, it can be removed.  If you want a final varnish, that would come after 6 months or a year, and that varnish can’t be removed.  Retouch varnish is more forgiving for the immediate present.

after varnish

After I varnished  my friend’s new painting (ok, it’s “Sedona Yellow Redrocks”) with a large paintbrush, I decided to varnish about 8 more paintings.  Including the child portrait above this post.  I did not manipulate the colors in both photos,( I always take photos in natural light.) Heck, I’m on a roll here, better take advantage while I’m in the mood!  Word of caution though, I had no idea this varnish smells, has a strong odor like turpentine.  I didn’t have a mask, but I stayed away from breathing in the fumes.

Important note:  If you get any on your hands, which I did in fact, wash your hands  immediately. It took a few washes, but thank goodness for Dr. Bronner’s soap, it did the trick.  I was worried my hands would smell like varnish, but it didn’t.  I’ll have to varnish and post some of the newer paintings, but from here on out, I’m using varnish for my art.  It really makes it shine and adds value.  Plus, it makes me feel good that I took good care of my art.  It’s like watching 3-D tv for the first time (which I did in Best Buy last week), it’s hard to go back to your old tv after that experience.

So my recommendation is to use a retouch varnish, I might look into something more eco-friendly if it works just the same, but this is a great product, recommended to me by a great friend.

Ledoux Street Painting Demo

Early drawing/painting stage, establishing dark shadows and composition

Early drawing/painting stage, establishing dark shadows and composition


Middle stage, colors laid in, established dark and lights

Final stage, details laid in, notice door and lightpost shadows

Final stage, details laid in, notice door and lightpost shadows


So this is from one of my many trips to Taos, NM.  I set up my easel on Ledoux Street, one of the most historic streets in Taos.  I loved the character of the door and it was early in the morning.  The shadows and lights were most apparent at that time.  When you paint, you must own that scene and give it your all.  Attack the painting like it was an animal, well not Mike Vick style (Go Eagles!), but like a lion hunting a gazelle.  Just use your animal instincts and you’ll know what I mean.  And I do love animals, I’d rather paint than eat them.  Got that PETA?  This painting used to be on the site, but was bought so I took it off to make room for others.  Thank you all for looking, more to come in the future!

That will make a great painting!

"Ol Blue Eye"  8x10  Oil on board 


"Ol Blue Eye" 8x10 Oil on board

This has been a wild week of painting, I have done 9 paintings this week and hope to get 3 more in today.  It’s good to be productive and busy like this, very healthy.  I was in Abiqui, NM yesterday and painting some good work that I’ll post soon.  I miss the water and went to Abiqui Lake to paint, quite amazing. This horse painting was something I did several days ago.  I’m starting to see that there’s some good brush stroke work giving the subject some life.  Though the color is more realistic, there’s a certain mystical quality that I enjoy as well.  I’m starting to get into painting animals and would like to do more.  I only paint what moves me, and I hunt for subjects like a lion hunts a gazelle.  There is a certain primal quality I like about finding the right subject to paint, but how I look at life, I can see a scene and in my mind, I think “That will make a great painting!”.  I do this often, more than not.  It’s cool when you see your work growing and I do believe it’s going in the right direction.  I would love to take a workshop or have a mentor to take it to the next level.  Plus I can write about this experience and post it as well.  I feel there’s much social/artistic responsibility to be a professional artist.  Painting is the main thing, but there’s so many factors that come out of it.  Aside from painting, I’m a poet, writer, blogger, photographer, web designer, philosopher, and teacher.  Father, philanthropist, talk-show host could all be future titles one day, who know.  All of these titles are natural extensions of my being, it’s just a part of who I am.  Next time I think my life is boring, I’ll try to think of all of these things.